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Bible Engagement Blog


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Opening the 4/14 Window

A friend recently introduced me to the 4/14 Global Missions Movement. When I visited the 4/14 website I was struck by the fact that nearly 50% of the world’s population are under 20 years of age – indicating that children are the largest people group in the world yet to be connected with Christ!

In Canada, 65% of Canadian Christian adults came to faith in Christ before they were 12 years old and 80% came to faith in Christ before they were 19 years old (Child Evangelism Fellowship). Worldwide, 71% of Christians commit their lives to Christ before the age of 15 and an additional 10% before the age of 19. Only 19% of Christians come to faith in Christ as adults (Based on a study by the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1996).

With these statistics in mind, one would think that the majority of the efforts to connect people with Christ would be child focused. But they’re not. Most of what we do is geared to adults. Look at any local church budget and you’ll see that pastor’s salaries (those who are teaching/preaching adults), buildings (where the largest and “most important” space with the best audio visual system is the place where the adults meet), and adult related programs are the big ticket items.

Our priorities are back to front. A new focus is needed for a new era. How long will it be until we wake up to the fact that each successive generation in the Western world has fewer Christians than the previous generation? And what will it take for us to hear Christ, really hear Him, saying, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” Matthew 19:14 (NIV).

It’s time to act. For those who would move forward, consideration must be given to how we can “reach, rescue, root, and release children into relationship with Jesus Christ …” (the goal of the Global Missions Movement).

Of course, Bible engagement should be an essential component of any and all missional strategies to connect children and youth with Jesus. If children are going to have a relationship with Christ that matters deeply, then we must do everything we can to help them acquire a deep commitment to the Scriptures. But that’s easier said than done. From the vantage point of a CEO/Executive Director charged with leading an organization that works to connect Canadians with Jesus and His Story, I’m keenly aware that we have a long way to go.

So a question for my colleagues in the Bible agency world. How should the 4/14 Window figure into our plans? Historically, most Bible agencies, translators, publishers and distributors have invested the lion’s share of operating capital into developing resources for adults. Maybe it’s time to take stock. Do we need more English versions of the Bible for adults? Isn’t 800+ versions more than enough! Why, like the Titanic, do we continue full steam ahead with developing new Bible Apps, resources and delivery systems for adults? Especially when we know that “women’s Bibles, men’s Bibles, student Bibles, even software Bibles or the Bible on-line have not increased the numbers of people reading (the Bible).” (cf. Barna).

Opening the 4/14 window. There are 3 billion children and youth. Can we reach them together? Developmentally speaking, children between 8-12 years old are more inclined to matters of faith than at any other stage of life. Imagine what could be done if the budgets of all the entities producing Bibles or Bible related resources were restructured to develop resources that would significantly help “reach, rescue, root, and release children into relationship with Jesus Christ.”

© Scripture Union Canada 2015

2 Corinthians 4:5


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4/14 Bible Engagement

“Connecting children with Jesus and His Story should be the priority of the church today!” This, according to the keynote message at the December 2014 Forum of Bible Agencies- North America meeting in Niagara Falls.

“God’s Word for a Young World”, the theme of the FOBA-NA meeting, centered attention on the importance of reaching children and youth. “A new focus is needed for a new era . . . what we’ve done in the past will not cut it in the future . . . each successive generation (in the Western world) has fewer Christians than the previous generation . . . we must do all we can to share the Scriptures with our children and grand-children while we still can!”

These impassioned comments were fuelled by the injunction in God’s Word to “Impress them (the Scriptures) on your childrenDeuteronomy 6:7 (NIV). Or, as Eugene Peterson paraphrased this verse in The Message, the task is to first “Get them (the Scriptures) inside of you and then get them inside your children.”

The call to connect children and youth with the Bible is amplified by research. According to the Pew Research Centre, the religious unaffiliated in Canada has gone from 4% in 1970 to 24% in 2011 and in the USA from 5% in 1970 to 20% in 2011. Couple the rise of the “Nones” with the growth of other religions in North America and the need to impress the Scriptures on our children is more urgent than ever before.

So how do we do Bible engagement with a special concern for children? Forum members were encouraged to review, revise and restructure their operational budgets. Finances could then be used to envision and develop new resources. The work should not be done in isolation. Collaboration and working partnerships with children’s/youth agencies should be integral to the efforts as well as the creation of innovative marketing/promotions that invite and encourage children and youth to engage with the Bible.

But the challenge to connect children with the Bible involves much more than the creation of, distribution or marketing of resources. Stress was placed on the fact that “Belief matters! When people love Christ, they will love His Word.” A correlation of findings from Bible engagement studies revealed that most people who intentionally engage with the Bible are people who embrace Christ by faith. Bible engagement paradigms must therefore include evangelism, specifically child evangelism, as a core component of a 4/14 Bible engagement strategy.

With the above in mind, the concluding comment of the opening address was, “The decline in Bible engagement is primarily a relational problem – people aren’t getting connected to Jesus . . . we need more than a Bible reading revival – we need a Jesus revival!”

© Scripture Union Canada 2014